Under the guidance of Professor of Chemistry Erin T. Pelkey this summer, student researchers Courtney Franceschi ’16, Maeve Holton ’15 and Nate Truax ’17 are conducting intensive research on synthetic methods that produce compounds able to be used in an effort to find new anti-cancer agents.
Working in the labs at HWS, the team will develop synthetic methods that can be applied to the synthesis of biologically active molecules. Pelkey says they are working to come up with flexible and efficient ways to put together small nitrogen-containing molecules that will allow for the preparation of biological testing.
The team’s primary goal is to make a difference in synthetic methodology; however they will also be passing on the results of their research to members of the HWS Biology Department with the aim of finding new anti-cancer agents.
“The final target will be to hand over our newly synthesized compounds and have them tested,” Pelkey says. “It’s really exciting because it’s the first time we’ve ever done this and it’s building off all the research we’ve done in the past.”
Now in the 13th year of an on-going research program, the results from this summer will be passed on to Assistant Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery and her summer research student, Carly Rolph ’15, for further examination.
The research is made possible by the generosity of Dr. Arthur A. Patchett, the father of Thomas Patchett ’88, who has supported the HWS Chemistry Department with the Patchett funding for more than 10 years. Each year, the funding helps support chemistry research projects for HWS students during the summer.
“It’s like a seed that’s grown as more and more students are supported and benefit from the funding,” Pelkey says, adding that the support has been key in maintaining a high level of research over the years. The Patchett Summer Scholars also know the importance of the funding in making their research possible.
“Without the Patchett grant, not all of us would be here, and as a first-year researcher I probably would’ve had less of a chance of getting the position if we didn’t have the money from the grant,” Truax says. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and this research will help me get there because it gives me the experience I need.”
The funding is also being used this summer to support Patchett Scholars conducting research under the guidance of Associate Professor of Chemistry Justin Miller and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Will Eckenhoff.
“I feel very indebted to Dr. Patchett,” Pelkey says. “And his generousity supported 20 of my students over the last 13 years, and it has supported the whole program.”
In addition to the Patchett Grant, Pelkey’s research also has been funded by grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will soon be funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The support from Patchett, and other alums, including Dr. Edward Franks ’72, and Dr. Roberta Barnes Carey ’71 and HWS Trustee Dr. Stephen Cohen ’67 have been instrumental in positioning this research to attract federal funding, Pelkey says.
Now retired, Arthur Patchett led a career as an esteemed medicinal chemist. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemistry from Princeton in 1951, was a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge University, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1955. Throughout his career, Patchett has conducted groundbreaking research that led to the development of several major cardiovascular drugs.